URLs and Email Addresses: A How-To

We deal with email addresses and website addresses (URLs) every day, but how should we render them in sentences? Stuart, a reprographics officer in Dorset, England, suggested I write on this topic. It is an excellent idea, and I am happy to offer guidance.

Here are guidelines on how to punctuate, capitalize, and divide email addresses and URLs:

When an email address or website address comes at the end of a sentence, consider whether your readers may mistakenly think that the period (full stop) at the end of the sentence is part of the address. If you think your readers may be confused, use one of these approaches:

  1. Restructure the sentence so that the address is not at the end of the sentence.
  2. Set off the address, like this, with no period (full stop):
    Please visit my website at:
    www.syntaxtraining.com

The Microsoft Manual of Style for Technical Publications suggests the above approaches. However, The Chicago Manual of Style states:

"Other punctuation marks [other than the slash] used following a URL will readily be perceived as belonging to the surrounding text. It is therefore unnecessary to omit appropriate punctuation after the URL. . . ."

I admit that I used to simply omit the period (full stop) at the end of a sentence that ended with a web address. But now when I create a document online, I typically use a hyperlink with a period at the end of the sentence, which I hope is clear to all. It looks like this: Please write to me at lynng@myaddress.com. When I believe my reader may be confused, I use the Microsoft approach.

Here are some other rules:

  1. When you refer to a website–not an address–use normal capitalization, like this:
    the TypePad website
       
  2. When you use a website address, do not capitalize any part of it, like these: http://www.typepad.com and www.businesswritingblog.com. However, when you are citing a file at an address, do not alter any capitalization. For example, if you make the letters PDF or BBW lower case in this address, you will get an error message:
    http://www.syntaxtraining.com/PDF/BBW_082406.pdf
     
  3. Use the preposition at to introduce both email and website addresses, like this:
    You can order the lantern at www.rei.com.
     
  4. In a printed work, if you must break an address at the end of a line of type, do it in one of these places:
    After a double slash (//) or a single slash (/)
    (Note: The Gregg Reference Manual breaks before a single slash.)

    Before a tilde (~), a dot (.), a comma, a hyphen (-), an underline (_), a question mark, an at symbol (@), a number sign (#), or a percent symbol (%), like this:
    http://press-pubs.uchicago
    .edu/founders/
     

  5. Never add a hyphen to an address in order to break it at the end of a line. Just break it, like this:
    http://www.computerclassrooms
    inseattle.com
  6. If a company name has an apostrophe (for example, Papa Murphy’s), do not use it in the website address (www.papamurphys.com). Apostrophes are not allowed in URLs.

Please let me know if you have other questions about email and website addresses. And thanks to Stuart, the reprographics officer in Dorset, who asked me to address this subject. I admire his interest in getting it right for the sake of his customers.

Lynn

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Other search spellings: emial, meail, adress, hypen, hyphan, capitalzation

9 COMMENTS

  1. If someone has an email address that is their name or last name or initial such as Greg@xyz.com is it technically correct to capitalize this or should it be greg@xyz.com? Does it matter? I am constantly in disagreement with my coworkers about this and am curious. Thank you.

  2. Hi, Greg. Here is an answer from THE GREGG REFERENCE MANUAL: “The use of lowercase is simplest. As a rule, you may lowercase an e-mail address that the user has chosen to capitalize. However, in rare cases a host computer may not recognize an e-mail address unless the user name is typed in the style established by the user. To be sure that a user will receive your e-mail, preserve the style he or she has given you.”

    I know that comment is not definitive, but I hope it helps. I myself always write email addresses in lowercase.

    Lynn

  3. Hi, as a tech geek and as a communicator I would like to add one small thing. If you are posting what you are writing on a website or in an email or in a pdf, and want to use your email address or website as a link, adding the “.” to the end will make your address not work, e.g., http://www.msn.com/home. and http://www.msn.com/home are not the same thing Is it ok to leave the “.” off then?!

  4. Hi, Michele. One way is to leave off the period (full stop) if the structure looks okay without it. For example, you can set off the email address or website on a separate line, so no period is required.

    Another way is to space between the address or URL and the period. Although this may look slightly unusual, your reader will understand why you are doing it.

    I am unable to consult my reference books at the moment. When I can, I will update this comment if I find other suggestions.

    Thanks for asking.

    Lynn

  5. Is it appropriate to set off a web address in a business letter with italics, underline or blue font (as it would look with a hyperlink?)

  6. Hi, Les. You do not need to set off a web address any special way in a business letter. Here is a sample sentence:

    At http://www.syntaxtraining.com you will find more information.

    If you believe your reader may not be familiar with how to enter URLs, you may wish to include the http:// at the beginning, like this:

    At http://www.syntaxtraining.com you will find more information.

    If you backspace on the “m” in “com,” the blue underlining of the hyperlink should disappear.

    Try always to render a URL on the same line of text, not broken across two lines of text.

    Lynn

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